Tolerance – The Gift We Need 

If you look up tolerance in the dictionary, you might come across something to the effect of “the ability or willingness to coexist with the opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with”. If you were to ask me, Helen Keller put forth the best one- it is the highest result of education. In fewer words, live and let live. Standing up for your truth is great, but we often blur the fine lines between being a rational supporter of a cause we place our faith in, and mindlessly hating everything else that is not particularly to the same tune, just to prove a point.  Instead of accepting the challenge of an honest difference of opinion, the intolerant person resorts to intimidation, insult, or withdrawal as a way of rigidly holding on to his beliefs. This is a serious issue, and to prove that, one does not need to look any further than our present. The preposterous and blatant denial of the electoral vote by Donald Trump and his supporters that lead to the capitol siege of 2021 has its roots in the dwindling tolerance quotient among people. At the domestic front too, be it the handling of the CAA protests or the arrests of comedians under ‘religious violation and disrespect of sentiments’, most recent being that of Munawar Faruqui, have led to a thought-provoking question: is offending people really a piece of cake. The answer to this question actually depends upon something known as a tolerant quotient. A person having a high tolerance quotient would be able to practice fair and objective behaviour towards those whose opinions differ from their own. By being tolerant, you are respecting and learning from others, valuing differences, bridging cultural gaps, rejecting unfair stereotypes, discovering common ground, and creating new bonds. Tolerance, in so many ways, is the opposite of prejudice.

 Not only does tolerance help in having a healthy environment around oneself, by helping in the work-life balance, but it also has various other benefits about which one can discuss endlessly. The stand out amongst them is the beautiful relation tolerance has with anger management. They say the more intolerant a person is, the more intense their anger is. As said by Ambrose Bierce,

“ Speak when you are angry and you will make the best hate speech you will ever regret.”

Is tolerance an acceptance of all and every kind of behaviour? It would defy every ounce of human rationale to say yes. By no definition of tolerance, is toxic behaviour like bullying, trolling or acts that violate human rights acceptable. It simply is to treat others the way you want to be treated. We live in a world that is a potpourri of a rich blend of culture and traditions and this world grows smaller and closer and more connected every day. Being a citizen entity of this world, we are bound to meet people who have values and traditions that look nothing like ours, and we are supposed to interact with people of differing cultures, ethnicities, nationalities, races and religions. Sure, you will be aware of the major differences between these people and yourself. But it was not one person of one region or culture or ethnicity that brought the world to where it is today. Advancement today depends on the ability to appreciate others’ work and being tolerant of the differences that co-exist.

 Tolerance is multi-faceted and dimensional. As William Ury notes, 

“tolerance is not just agreeing with one another or remaining indifferent in the face of injustice, but rather showing respect for the essential humanity in every person.”

-William Ury

What is more important is being tolerant of those who are intolerant towards you. It’s always difficult to love those who hate you. Just remember what Paulo Coelho once said to achieve this 

“To have faith in his path, he does not need to prove that someone else’s path is wrong.”

Maybe if the criminals of Nido Taniam remembered this quote, the young boy would not have lost his life.

 Indians are also capable of giving this beautiful gift to the rest of the world, a reminder like  Hanumana is just what they need to remember the magical powers. Compared to other religions globally, Hinduism is said to be the most tolerant one. It’s trademark being tolerance in abundance. But of late, 94 per cent of the global Hindus residing in this nation, most seem to have forgotten this basic idea. They have forgotten that coexistence is possible and sometimes instead of raising voices, arguments should be bettered. Remember the Dadri mob-lynching case or the censor-scissor of 2015. Were the underlying issues of these actually that important or were they simply blown up because of the culture of intolerance and general disregard for peaceful coexistence? It’s certainly something to think about if you ask me.

February or more widely known as the month of love was added to the Roman calendar in 713 BC. The month is named for the Latin word februum which means purification. Horace Mann has well-articulated

“bodies are cleansed by water, the mind is purified by the truth.”

The first step is always accepting and coming to terms with the fact that one person can’t change the world, but they can help it on its way by changing themselves, by allowing themselves to be open to the multiple facets of our world. The cornerstone for this acceptance is tolerance. Tolerance of diversity is what is required in recent times, considering the Delhi riots that happened a year back, the events that led up to the BLM movement not too long ago, the Capitol Siege, the attacks that India’s comedians face on a morbidly regular basis, amongst many other scenarios. So should we not celebrate the meaning of this month with full enthusiasm also. While in this month, love takes the front-seat, something that helps to uphold it should also get recognition. Along with teddies, chocolates and flowers, we should also give the gift of tolerance.

Ramita Misra

FY B.Sc.

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